Queso the Mondays: Azul Tequila, Papalote, Sazon and Torchy’s Tacos

I will slowly make my way around Austin over the next several weeks, sampling some of the city’s notable quesos.  I will post  about what I’ve seen and eaten here as part of this Queso the Mondays series. I have a list of about 30 restaurants, and hopefully it includes some of your favorites. But if there is a  place you think I should know about, holler in the comments.

azultequila

Azul Tequila. 4211 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-416-9667, azultequila.com. ($6)

When people think of queso, they probably imagine something like this offering from Azul Tequila. This is the kind of queso you could find at generic Mexican restaurants across the country. The mix, which I assume used Velveeta as its base, was milky, thick and somewhat bland. The poblano peppers added some texture, but no heat.  Overall score: 3/10

papalote

Papalote. 2803 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-804-2474, yumpapalote.com. ($3.99)

Considering that there is such attention to detail given to process and scratch cooking at this taqueria from the owners of Azul Tequila, it’s a little surprising there’s not more effort given to queso. This one had a smoother and thinner consistency than its sister down the street, with just a few soft green peppers floating around. Again, no real heat to speak of. The chips were the best of this week’s quartet, with a bubbled finish and a gentle shatter. Overall score: 4/10

sazon

Sazon. 1816 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-4395, sazonaustin.com. ($5.99)

This queso was separating on top and had lumpy consistency throughout. Raw green peppers and weathered cilantro didn’t do much to express themselves, and the queso tasted like most of its seasoning came from garlic salt. An odd choice. Bonus points for the doily. Overall score: 2/10

torchys

Torchy’s Tacos. 3005 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-614-1832, torchystacos.com. ($5.25)

Maybe they should change the name to Torchy’s Queso. The cheese dip that helped put the Austin-based chain on the map is still the best thing at the restaurant. A ’90s squiggle of Diablo Sauce (made with fire-roasted habanero peppers, tomato and vinegar) puts some acidic sting in this queso that is colored with flecks of skin from roasted green chilies that spread their heat throughout. A minor quibble: The cilantro and guacamole could stand out more in their roles of floral and fatty salve. The chips came out warm and salted, a nice touch. But though the menu says “homemade chips,” we were told the chips come from Austin’s own El Milagro. Overall score: 8.5/10

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